To Kindle or not to Kindle
In my leavers assembly at Infant School I stood up and announced that “When I grow up” I wanted to be a librarian so that I could live in a tent in the library and read books all the time. I always loved the way that books could transport you to another world, another time, another situation and allow you to forget what was going on in the real world, however painful, difficult or even wonderful. Books allow you experience things you might never get the chance to. I have become princesses, witches, mothers, teachers, prisoners, soldiers and a whole array of other things. Books make me grateful for my own life and open my eyes to what I could or should be doing with it.
As I prepare for my year abroad, I am gradually getting together all the things that I will be taking with me. But I stumbled upon a problem: how on earth am I going to fit a whole years worth of books into one suitcase? And more importantly, how am I going to choose?! There seemed to be only one solution to this, a route which I had always said I would never go down: a Kindle.
Why had I been so reluctant to do this before then I hear you ask? It seemed to me to go against everything that a book was about. Technology is supposed to answer problems but I couldn’t see why this was a necessary development. Books work. They always have. Our hands can still hold them and our eyes can still read them.
However, it would seem as though I had stumbled upon a problem that a Kindle could solve so I ordered one and eagerly anticipated all the wonderful things it would offer. I had also ordered a ‘wine purple’ cover with a light which makes the shape rather more like a book and makes it a lot easier to read when there isn’t lots and lots of light. All in all, I must say that I am impressed. The text is easy to read and the Kindle is light in my hands. The charge seems to last well and books download instantly onto it using my Wi-Fi. It is designed so that there is effectively no design, allowing the Kindle to just blend into the background so that you forget that it’s there, just concentrating on the text itself. I can attest to this attribute and say that I do seem to stop noticing the Kindle after a while but I think that in itself may point out where an e-reader is flawed.
Yes, my hands can hold a Kindle and my eyes can read it. But is that enough? Hands do more than just hold the book, they feel it’s weight and its texture, the feel of the pages and age of the paper. There is something comforting about the weight in your hands and the crispness of a brand new book or the tired and broken spine of one which has been well loved. Part of what one remembers when they look back on reading a book is all of these things. In essence, the book itself and not just the text inside are really important. It gives it a sense of purpose to whatever it is you are reading and helps to create the whole experience of reading a book. I have missed out the most important sense of all though: smell. Who doesn’t love the smell of a second-hand bookshop? All the history in it’s shelves and the love that has been poured into all it’s contents. Or the smell of a brand new book, of the ink and the crisp pages. The smell of a friend’s book she has lent you, a faint hint of her perfume as you lift the pages. The smell of a library book, well-loved and well cared for.
Books inspire. It is their greatest trait. Before they inspire people to go out into the world and do something special, they first just inspire them to pick one up and read it. As an avid and passionate reader, I could quite happily read a book written on a thousand post-it notes if that was what it took to read the story but I know that not everyone is like that. The ‘I’ll-just-wait-for-the-film’ generation is growing and I’m not sure that e-readers are going to help anything. Don’t get me wrong, I realise that young people nowadays are always desperate for the next technological development, but I still fear that simply seeing the text displayed might not be enough to encourage people to read it, even if they do choose to own a Kindle.
The biggest thing that I dislike about e-readers is that you can’t borrow books. As stated at the start of this post, I absolutely love libraries and the idea that we can read any book we like for free. It makes reading totally accessible to anyone and everyone and there is something wonderful about borrowing a book and seeing just how many people have read it before you. I think that makes reading, which could be considered a lonely pursuit, less isolating. You are about to become part of a community who all know the secrets of this book. Amazon have got a little of this community aspect in that they show the passages that lots of people have highlighted which is nice and you can obviously go online to see lots of other peoples reviews, but it’s not the same thing.
Even so, it would seem that I have chosen ‘To Kindle’ of the two options that I gave myself in the title of this post and I am very pleased with my purchase. It has solved a difficult problem that I was going to face next year and I must say that I have enjoyed reading on it so far. So much so that I read the entire play, The Importance of Being Earnest, in just one day. I mean, it isn’t very long and I have read much more in a day in the past, but it still felt like somewhat of an achievement. However, I think it serves a very different purpose to the book and I have no doubt that my house will always be filled with endless shelves of them, despite the fact that I now own a Kindle. My Kindle is unlikely to change my reading habits and even though I love it, I think I will still choose to read a proper book when I can (a library book would be even better!). Despite this, I don’t think e-readers are doing any harm and if I’m wrong, which I hope I am, and they actually encourage the generation of technology to get reading, then they wouldn’t just not be doing any harm, they would be actively doing good.